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Mission man admits to striking, killing friend with vehicle

by Jeff Smith/For the Leader
| February 15, 2024 12:00 AM

A St. Ignatius man admitted to striking a friend and fellow party attendee with his truck and killing the man. Tommy Van Mahseelah, 20, entered a plea of guilty in Polson District Court Feb. 7 to felony negligent homicide.

The plea was entered as part of an agreement that dismisses one count of felony accidents involving another person or deceased person. The agreement calls for a 10-year commitment to the Montana Department of Corrections, with nine years suspended. It also calls for Mahseelah to be given credit for time served, time going through inpatient treatment, and time for sober living. Judge Molly Owen is not bound to the agreement.

According to court records, on Nov. 19, 2022, about a dozen underage kids went up Mission Dam Road to celebrate after the St. Ignatius Bulldogs played in the state championship football game. The youths consumed alcohol and drove back to town in four separate vehicles.

At one point, one of the vehicles carrying passenger David Hammer stopped so a more sober driver could take over driving. However, Hammer did not get back in, and was left along the roadside.

A short time later, Mahseelah came by driving his flatbed truck with a camouflage paint job and struck Hammer with his vehicle. Hammer’s body was discovered by his own mother, who was out looking for her son. She had already come across Mahseelah who indicated to her that Hammer was already back in town.

Life-saving efforts were administered to Hammer by an ambulance crew, but the young man was declared dead at 3:42 a.m. Nov. 20, 2022. Based on witness statements, investigators turned their focus on Mahseelah.

When questioned, Mahseelah admitted that his vehicle was the last to leave the party, and indicated that his windshield was fogged up. He also admitted that he saw something in the road, and thought it was just snow before hitting the object.

He said when he and his passengers got out to see what they had struck, they allegedly found Hammer face down in the roadway. They reportedly rolled Hammer onto his back and realized he was not breathing. At some point they came across Hammer’s mother and lied to her about her son’s whereabouts.

Judge Molly Owen set sentencing for April 10. Mahseelah remains at liberty.